Saturday, May 14, 2016

Color study

Back in January and February, when I was eagerly awaiting my 20-week ultrasound and to learn the gender of Baby Knauer, I started fixating on the nursery and what colors I would assign to this baby’s room and bedding and probably, subconsciously, future clothing purchases.
The baby will be moving into our smallest, or as I like to think of it, coziest, bedroom, located on the north side of the house over the foyer, which for the past year or so has been a guest bedroom, left vacant 360 nights out of the year. The paint color was a smoky blue-gray, chosen when the room was originally designated in 2009 as our “study,” which to us meant a room for a love seat, old TV stand and new flat-screen TV, decorated with the more intimate family photos and our framed college degrees. It’s a nice, masculine color, and helps balance the upstairs, which has two light green rooms (the sage playroom/office and Rye’s spring green bedroom) and two blues (the smoky blue-gray and the master bedroom’s airy blue). My dad had already offered his time to do the painting in whatever we wanted, so all I had to do was make up my mind and dust.
If the baby was a girl, I hadn’t made up my mind yet, but was thinking something in the lilac family or maybe even a cheery pastel coral sorbet. For a boy, I wasn’t quite sure. We already had enough green rooms, I didn’t want to do a neutral, and a baby boy blue was too close to the master bedroom’s blue. I turned it over in my mind, but decided I would look at rugs first and let that be the first color choice of the room to be followed by choosing a paint color. So when, on Feb. 29, we found out we were having another boy, my next step in decorating was already set in motion, and the rug search began.
I’ve written about my love of rugs before when I was choosing the playroom rug, which you can read/view pictures of HERE. So I won’t go into detail about that. But I must say that buying a gender neutral/not too adult/slightly masculine rug is not easy. I’m not one for buying a rug designed specifically for kids. I want to have the ability to roll this rug up and move it to another room in a few years if I decide I have a better place for it or just want to change my mind.
So what I came up with was a color scheme of blue, off-white and green, and looked at different shades of blues and greens and different not-too-floral patterns. And here is what I chose:

Since computer screens can alter the color tone, I’ll describe this blue as just a tinge of turquoise and the green as sort of an Aegean sea green. And with that rug chosen and my accent colors set, I decided that the smoky blue room was just as it should be, and there was no need to paint it another color.
Which was a difficult decision for me to make. One of my biggest reactions to learning we are having a second son was wanting to honor the second child as much as our first, and I was concerned about how to do that without the excitement of having a child of the opposite sex. I know it seems silly, but I grew up in a family with just two kids, one girl and one boy, 7 years apart, which meant we both grew up with the pleasure of being mostly treated like an only child who never had to wear spit-up stained onesies or play with semi-broken toys. Maybe kids from big families don’t think about those things, but I remember thinking about that in the context of my friends who had multiple siblings, so I’m guessing they thought about it too. I wanted to take this baby’s bedroom as seriously as I had taken Rye’s. But there was no clear color I wanted to paint this room that would be different, so painting for the sake of painting seemed just silly. The rug was rolled out, the baby furniture moved in, and while we still need to take down our DVD collection and college degrees, this room is about 75 percent of the way of being ready for Boy #2.

But I love color. I couldn’t relinquish the desire to pick a new color and transform a room on a grand scale for the measly cost of about $28. And so I set my sights on the master bedroom.
This was kind of silly too. I really loved my bedroom color, it’s such a happy blue that every time I looked at Olympic paint section at Lowe’s and try to pick a different color, I picked this one every time.
But change can be good. Even if egg custard is my favorite Italian ice/snowball flavor, I don’t order it every time because it gets old and doesn’t taste as rich anymore. And the same can happen with a color choice. I’ve now looked at this color for 7 years, and it was just a shade different from the color of my bedroom in our previous apartment, where we lived for almost 6 years.
Thinking about how it looks like my life going forward will be me versus 3 males, I decided I deserve a sanctuary of femaleness. No, I would not subject Josh to sharing a pink bedroom (pink is not in my top 3 colors, though I am partial to a ballet pink color that I think looks very good with my skin tone). But I wanted purple. Or rather, a purplish-blue, a periwinkle. I looked at 5 different companies of paint, even calling my parents and asking them to go to their local hardware store and pick out a dozen paint chip cards for me to compare, but as I pored over my stockpile, nothing was quite right. So I pursued a silvery purple, which designers in magazines and television programs are always trying to convince us are still a very masculine but soft option. Josh disagreed. And he continuously reminded me of the purple bedroom at our previous house, which he called “the Crayola room,” and it made me second guess every purple paint chip. So I decided to add something totally different to the mix—a deep blue-green. I can’t say where this desire came from, but while at Home Depot I had seen a paint chip of this color in the Ralph Lauren section that I thought was stunning, and reminded me of a glamorous study in a mansion, and then I picked a few similar colors by other brands to see if I really liked it or not.
Having accumulated a giant envelope of paint chips, I decided to take my time with it and really study the colors. I started with picking out 21 paint chips, each with the adjoining paint colors on the same card where applicable, and hung them up on the north side wall of our bedroom, which gets the most attractive morning light through the windows without any indoor lamps on. I stared at them for a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning, before going to bed at night, and while walking through my room to fetch a sweater or socks or restock the toilet paper.

About a week later, I cut off the samples on those cards that I was not seriously considering, which removed the distraction of having so many colors and of thinking I liked certain colors when really I only liked them better than the other ones on the same card. This took me down from 21 individual colors I had been looking at to just 11.

Another week later, I moved the color chips to the room’s east wall, which gets the best afternoon sunlight via the bathroom windows. And they looked really different there than they had on the other wall. This move also changed the way they looked with electric lighting, since they were now more influenced by the incandescent lights overhead in our ceiling fan (which project a yellow-y light that I’m not very happy about) which we use when walking through the room to fetch something, as compared to the CFL bulbs in our reading lamps, which is what we use most often when spending time in the room.

And then I got stuck. I kind of even stopped noticing the paint chips. It was Josh who brought it up next with “so can I throw these paint chips away?” (He meant the ones that had been removed from the wall and were covering the top of my bookcase, not the ones on the wall. The answer was still “no.”) Which he followed up with “so are we going to paint the room or not?”
Here was my problem: the blues were too close to the blues I already had, the purples weren’t purple enough to make me happy, and the blue-greens were just so dark that they had big potential for being regretted. I was really on the fence about whether to pursue a paint change or just ask my dad to use his offered time to build me a raised bed for my vegetable garden instead.

But Josh expressed regret that he had been a bit of a sour-puss on the whole color change, and encouraged me to go ahead and just pick what would make me happy (granted that it wasn’t Crayola purple again). So I decided to go forward boldly with a blue green. At least, sample-wise. I told Josh I was willing to make a $5 venture rather than take a $28 risk, and we'd see how it turned out. And I studied my two favorite blue-greens again, and settled on one to have a sample made from the card: Kingfisher blue from Behr, but I had it made in Olympic paint because that’s the brand I like.

Kingfisher Blue is the lower sample,
top is Ralph Lauren's Blue Douglas.

The result: awful. It was way more teal, way more Caribbean or margarita bar-looking than I wanted to be. Even in the jar I could tell this was wrong, but I gave it a try, painting a 7-inch square on each wall in the bedroom. Three days later, I decided to go for the runner-up, the original color that had caught my eye, Ralph Lauren's Blue Douglas…only I had lost the sample card. This was pretty frustrating, because I did not want to go to Home Depot to pick up a card, just to drive over to Lowe's and have them make it for me in Olympic. So I decided to wing it, which was pretty ridiculous considering I had been studying the color samples on my wall for about 2 months. I had noticed that when they made my last sample, they had been able to type the paint name into their computer and the program recognized it and made the sample from the formula, rather than trying to use a scanner to color match it. I hoped this would work for the Ralph Lauren paint as well. Unfortunately, it didn’t. They couldn’t find Blue Douglas in their system, and I decided to just give the Lowe's brands a look one more time and see if I could find anything close, and I chose Valspar’s Firmament. It seemed very similar to the Ralph Lauren color, though not quite as dark, but not too happy-looking either, like the way the Kingfisher Blue had let me down. They mixed me up a sample and I painted it on the four walls again that night.
As it went on, it looked really dark, and more green than blue, which is not quite what I was going for. But as it dried, and as the different shades of light hit it, I thought “this could be it.” It wasn’t the color I had dreamed of, but after many weeks of experimentation, I thought this offered the “refuge” feeling that I was going for, even if it wasn’t going to be a feminine color. Josh liked it too, but was a little nervous about how dark it was. But I pointed out that with Rye being an early riser and a new baby on the way, I think we are more likely to want a darker room that aids every extra minute of sleep we can get rather than a color designed to help us wake up naturally with the morning light. I bought the paint two days later, and my dad was able to come over the next week and paint the room.
So here it is: my non sky-blue bedroom. This color tells me "go ahead and take a nap" and "don't worry about it, Josh has everything under control." 
I like it. 

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